Ecology Link, Britain's main church-based environmental organisation,
today urged the Church Commissioners to sell its shares in companies
involved in developing genetically modified organisms.
The call is in direct response to a press report (The Observer, 21st
November) that an unnamed Church source has said that it would be
inconsistent for the Church to invest in companies undertaking
genetically modified crop trials while refusing to allow such trials to
take place on Church land.
Christian Ecology Link (CEL) has urged the Church of England's Ethical
Investment Working Group to turn down the request from the Central
Science Laboratory when it meets next Wednesday (1st December) to
decide its recommendation to the Church Commissioners, who take the
final decision. The source claimed that blocking the trials would have
a dramatic impact on the Church of England's investment policy. Last
year the Church invested over &37m in companies developing genetic
engineering techniques such as AstraZeneca and Novartis.
CEL Chairman Tim Cooper said: "The Church Commissioners should
disinvest from companies such as AstraZeneca and Novartis forthwith.
Widespread public opposition to GM food means that investing heavily in
their shares involves undue risk. The Commissioners should instead be
exploring opportunities for increased investment in companies
associated with organic food, which benefits the environment and is
increasingly in demand."
He warned that if the Church Commissioners allowed the trials to
proceed "ordinary churchgoers will find it hard to understand why the
Church disregards the known environmental threats and dismisses
widespread public concern." He added "If the Church accepts its
environmental responsibility it must adopt the precautionary principle,
which means rejecting farm scale trials on its land."
- -CEL supports research into genetically modified organisms but only
in an enclosed environment.
CEL has also expressed concern to Church House officials at a statement
on the official Church of England web site suggesting that there is an
agreed policy sympathetic to immediate uptake of the technology. Tim
"The suggestion that there is an agreed policy is not true. The
statement was originally intended a briefing paper and has not been
discussed by General Synod. Some senior figures in the Church are
deliberately promoting a misleading policy claim."
Christian Ecology Link 1999